Rounding Up the Latest Offseason Buzz for Every NFL Team
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The NFL offseason isn't the most exciting time of the year, but it definitely serves its purposes in building a successful franchise. With rookie camps, minicamps and OTAs all having taken place, there is a lot of information to digest, as long as you know where to look.
From competitions to rookie progression and everything in between, today we are going to take a look around the league and see what the buzz is for every NFL team.
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The Arizona Cardinals have fielded one of the worst ground games in the NFL over the past few seasons due to injuries. Running backs Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams have struggled to stay healthy, and it resulted in the Cardinals finishing dead last in rushing yards per game last year with only 75.3 per contest.
However, the Cardinals used the offseason to improve the ground game by adding three running backs—Rashard Mendenhall, Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington—via free agency and the NFL draft. Now the only question that remains is who will be the starter asked to improve the worst ground game in the league.
As of right now, that appears to be Mendenhall, according to Mike Jurecki of Fox Sports 910 radio in Phoenix, Ariz. Head coach Bruce Arians also spoke highly of Mendenhall in an interview on NFL Network's NFL AM when he said:
He took me personally to a Super Bowl, and I know what he can bring to the table as a runner and a pass protector and also a receiver. He's an every-down player. And I think he's looking forward to having an outstanding season.
As long as Mendenhall can stay healthy, something he's struggled to do during his career, he should be a huge upgrade over former running back Beanie Wells.
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With Aaron Rodgers receiving a huge contract extention and Joe Flacco receiving a slightly smaller contract, the Atlanta Falcons should be looking to lock up their franchise quarterback, Matt Ryan, soon.
As Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com reported early in the week, talks between Ryan and the Falcons will likely heat up after July 4. That's good news for Falcons fans, who certainly would hate to see the best player on their roster not get what he rightfully deserves.
The other big dilemma for Atlanta heading into the 2013 offseason was fixing issues in its secondary. The Falcons made the right moves to do that by drafting cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford in the early rounds of the draft.
Head coach Mike Smith has been raving about the two young cornerbacks.
"I found out very quickly that those two young men are very competitive and when you've got that competitive drive I think it bodes well for you having success in the NFL," Smith said, per Daniel Cox of AtlantaFalcons.com.
Going up against wide receivers like Roddy White and Julio Jones every day in practice is going to be a great test for both Trufant and Alford. If the Falcons secondary can make huge strides, this team should once again be a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
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Few teams experienced as much change on the defensive side of the ball as the Baltimore Ravens. Gone are outside linebacker Paul Kruger, safety Ed Reed, cornerback Cary Williams and inside linebackers Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe.
The good news for the Ravens is that the replacement pieces have been looking very good. Rookie safety Matt Elam is picking the defense up quickly in Baltimore, according to Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun. The other rookie the Ravens drafted early, linebacker Arthur Brown, was participating in OTA drills after concerns arose that he wouldn't be healthy until training camp.
At outside linebacker, free-agent Elvis Dumervil is quickly emerging as a defensive leader, per Matt Zenitz of the Carroll County Times. However, the best news for the Ravens defense is the improvement of third-year cornerback Jimmy Smith.
According to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun, Smith is in better shape and studying the game more. If Smith can reach his full potential, the Ravens will have one of the best cornerback duos with Smith and Lardarius Webb.
While Baltimore did experience quite a bit of loss on defense, it appears that it might be better in 2013 than it was in 2012.
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The most important offseason buzz coming from the Buffalo Bills surrounds the quarterback competition. With Tarvaris Jackson having been released in early June, the competition is now between Kevin Kolb and rookie EJ Manuel.
In an interview with The John Murphy Show, head coach Doug Marrone had this to say about the timetable for a decision on the starting quarterback:
I'm hoping the decision and the timeline really relies on the players that are in competition. They have to separate themselves - and when you give people enough reps, they will separate. At what point? I don't know.
Basically, Bills fans could be waiting until late in the preseason for a starting quarterback to be named.
The other big issue in Buffalo revolves around starting safety Jairus Byrd. In a report from Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, Buffalo and Byrd don't have any movement on talks to sign the franchise player to a long-term deal.
Considering Byrd has been the most consistent player on the Bills defense the past few seasons, this isn't a good sign for Buffalo.
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The Carolina Panthers could be a rather dangerous team if all their young players start performing. And we're not just talking about quarterback Cam Newton, either.
The Panthers need help from all their young players to compete in the talented NFC South. The good news is that it appears that these players are beginning to step up.
Fourth-year wide receiver Armanti Edwards and second-year cornerback Josh Norman have both been looking extremely good, according to Joseph Person of The Charlotte Observer. Newton and the Panthers desperately need another wide receiver to step up alongside veteran Steve Smith.
On defense, the emergence of Norman will help to slow down division quarterbacks like Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Josh Freeman. As long as the Panthers can get quality play out of the younger members of their team, they could finally live up to expectations they've had in recent seasons as a sleeper team.
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After years of tormenting the NFL, Devin Hester's role with the Chicago Bears has taken a dramatic decrease. He only recorded 23 receptions for 242 yards and a touchdown last year, showing that he's basically no longer a weapon in the Bears offense.
However, now it even appears that Hester may even be losing his job as the primary punt and kick returner in Chicago. Head coach Marc Trestman said that Hester is competing for his job on special teams, according to John Mullin of CSNChicago.com.
As Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com points out, it wouldn't be too terribly expensive for the Bears to cut or trade Hester. With wide receiver Eric Weems waiting for his chance, the Bears might be thinking they can do without their All-Pro return man.
If Chicago does decide to cut or trade Hester, there will surely be 31 other NFL teams that would be extremely interested in his services.
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For years, the Cincinnati Bengals were known as the "trouble-making" team of the NFL. However, they've done a good job of moving away from that label in recent years.
Unfortunately, cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones brought back that label for a moment due to a recent arrest. While details are still being figured out with the assault chargers, another issue with law enforcement is the last thing that Jones needed.
The other big news out of Cincinnati revolves around offensive tackle Andre Smith. As Ian Rapoport of NFL.com stated via Twitter, Smith wasn't in attendance for the mandatory minicamp.
Smith had a breakout season in 2012 and signed a big offseason contract. However, his absence is troubling for the Bengals, as Smith had some off-field issues early in his career.
The Bengals will need Smith if they want to make another run at the playoffs. Without him, it could be a very long year for Andy Dalton in Cincinnati.
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Few teams made as big of a splash in free agency as the Cleveland Browns did. The big signings were outside linebacker Paul Kruger and defensive end Desmond Bryant.
Rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo had this to say about the defense, (via Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer):
"If everything is going well, I think this defense could be the best in the league."
That's some big talk for a rookie, especially considering the fact that Cleveland plays in the same division as the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers.
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The Dallas Cowboys signed defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove a little over a month ago. Now, according to Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com, the Cowboys have released Hargrove.
Hargrove was a member of the Green Bay Packers in 2012 but didn't see the field due to an early suspension from the New Orleans Saints bounty suspension. With his most recent release, it's hard to imagine Hargrove playing in the NFL during the 2013 season.
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With Peyton Manning under center, the last thing the Denver Broncos need is issues with the offensive line. Unfortunately, that's exactly what is buzzing in Denver.
The Broncos were expecting 26-year-old J.D Walton to be the starting center. However, Walton had surgery on his ankle and is expecting to miss the entire 2013 season, per Jeff Legwold of The Denver Post.
Following that news, Denver went out and re-signed its center from last year, Dan Koppen. As Aaron Wilson of Scout.com reported, the Broncos signed Koppen pending on a successful surgery on his ankle.
Until Koppen is healthy, Manning will be relying on second-year player Philip Blake to hold down the middle of the offensive line. If Blake struggles early on, it could be a bumpy road to the start of the 2013 season for Denver.
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Everyone is familiar with how dangerous of a weapon wide receiver Calvin Johnson is. He's easily the most dangerous receiver in the league and should have another successful season this year.
What could make Johnson even better, however, is another receiver to shift some of the opposing defenses' focus off him. Wide receiver Nate Burleson has struggled to do that for the Detroit Lions.
That's why it's good news that Ryan Broyles says he'll be ready for Week 1, as Chris Wesseling of NFL.com reported earlier in the week. Broyles only had 22 receptions for 310 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie, but he showed flashes of promise.
If Broyles can have a breakout season, the Lions should boast one of the most explosive passing offenses in the league.
Green Bay Packers
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After struggling with injuries the past few seasons, linebacker Desmond Bishop is no longer a member of the Green Bay Packers. The Packers released Bishop early in the week after days of speculation that he would be let go.
That leaves an opening in the middle of the defense for Green Bay. The likely candidate to replace Bishop is inside linebacker Brad Jones, who replaced Bishop last year when he was injured.
In fact, Jones put together the 10th-best overall year defensively, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Jones' explosive play during the 2012 season was probably a big reason in Green Bay's decision to release Bishop.
While the Packers could miss Bishop's leadership, they should be just as good or better overall due to the play of Jones.
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If you're big on fantasy football, you're sure to be familiar with Arian Foster. You were either really excited or really disappointed when news first broke about Foster injuring his calf during OTAs.
However, the injury never seemed to be too serious. Foster confirmed this in an interview with Ross Jones of FoxSports.com when he said:
"It’s just a small calf strain. News is dry in the offseason, so it made headlines."
That's certainly good news for the Houston Texans since Foster has become the focal point of the offense over the past few seasons. As long as Foster can get to 100 percent before the start of the season, the Texans should once again be the team to beat in the AFC South.
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With second-year quarterback Andrew Luck leading the way, the Indianapolis Colts should be just fine on the offensive side of the ball. Where Indianapolis really needs to improve heading into the 2013 season is on defense.
To improve the defense, the Colts could be looking to an old-time player to make a big impact. Indianapolis is moving Robert Mathis to weakside outside linebacker, per Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com.
The idea is that this move will help Mathis improve his ability to get after the quarterback. If they can get an improved sack total from Mathis, the Colts could become a dangerous team defensively.
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You know it's kinda slow when the biggest news for a team involves a ridiculous Twitter fight between an NFL reporter and a mascot.
Unfortunately, that's the current buzz for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio and Jaguars mascot Jaxson DeVille had a rather foolish exchange via Twitter.
This is about as low as it can get for a guy like Florio and one of the only times the Jaguars will be able to talk trash this year.
Kansas City Chiefs
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Few teams were as disappointing as the Kansas City Chiefs were during the 2012 season. They underachieved in a major way, finishing the year with the worst record in the NFL.
They should be much improved this year, especially with the offseason moves they made, and the ones they could make in the upcoming days. One of the biggest moves they've already made involves rookie tight end Travis Kelce.
As Rob Rang of CBSSports.com reports, Kelce has been working like crazy and is poised to make a huge impact right away in Kansas City. With another offensive weapon like Kelce, the Chiefs could be surprisingly good on the offensive side of the ball.
The move the Chiefs could make in the upcoming days involves recently released linebacker Desmond Bishop. He's expected to meet with the Chiefs soon, according to Mike Garafolo of USA Today.
If Bishop is healthy and does sign with Kansas City, it could have one of the best linebacker corps in the NFL. All these offseason changes have the Chiefs in a position to be the surprise team of the NFL in 2013.
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The future of the Miami Dolphins will depend heavily on the development of second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
He surprised everyone last year by proving that he wasn't quite the project that many expected him to be. Now, Tannehill looks ready to take the next step in becoming a top-tier quarterback in the NFL.
As John Congemi of The Finsiders reports, Tannehill looked sharp and in charge during a three-day minicamp. If he can take the next step, the Dolphins could challenge the New England Patriots for AFC East supremacy this year.
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If the Minnesota Vikings didn't have running back Adrian Peterson last year, they probably would have been one of the worst teams in the league. That is in large part due to quarterback Christian Ponder struggling to take that next step.
The Vikings looked to help Ponder this offseason by signing free-agent wide receiver Greg Jennings. Jennings supposedly "loves" Ponder, according to Jud Zulgad of 1500ESPN.com.
With Jennings and rookie receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, Ponder and the Vikings could become a dangerous passing team this year.
New England Patriots
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All the buzz for the New England Patriots is revolving around tight end Aaron Hernandez and the murder investigation of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd.
The most recent news is that Hernandez destroyed his home security system and cell phone before the police searched his home. Obviously, this is a scary situation for both the Patriots and Hernandez and something to keep our eyes on in the coming days.
New Orleans Saints
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With the departure of offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod in free agency, the New Orleans Saints have a major hole to fill at offensive tackle. They might have found an unlikely replacement.
The Saints signed former No. 2 overall pick Jason Smith this offseason. He's been regarded as a major bust so far in his career, but that could be changing.
Smith has looked good during camp for the Saints, according to Mike Triplett of The Times-Picayune. In fact, head coach Sean Payton had this to say about Smith:
He is a tremendous worker and has athletic ability. So it's another opportunity, and it's oftentimes you are able to get a player maybe his second time around or third time around that can come in and find a niche.
If Smith can finally live up to expectations, Drew Brees will likely be sleeping much better at night.
New York Giants
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With receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, the New York Giants have two of the better receivers in the league. The only problem is that no one really knows how long that duo will be in New York.
The Giants and Cruz have been in contract negotiations this offseason, but nothing positive has happened yet. In fact, Paul Schwartz of the New York Post says that both parties are still about three million away in guaranteed money from getting the deal done.
As for Nicks, he was absent during voluntary workouts for a while before showing up. Nicks had this to say about his future with the Giants, per Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post:
I really can’t speak for my whole career. I enjoy being a Giant right now. I’m going to take care of what I can take care of as long as I’m a Giant, but I do understand the business side of football, too.
The worst outcome for the Giants would be neither Cruz nor Nicks being a long-term player in New York. Should that happen, you'd have to think quarterback Eli Manning wouldn't be too pleased with management.
New York Jets
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We all know about the drama surrounding the New York Jets quarterback situation. Will it be Mark Sanchez or rookie Geno Smith starting once the regular season begins?
If the Jets players were making the decision, it might be Sanchez. A report from Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post states that the players are hoping that Sanchez wins the quarterback competition.
Center Nick Mangold had this to say about Sanchez:
I haven’t walked around with a pen and paper and taken a poll, but from the feeling I get, the locker room wants to win. Whoever gives us the best chance to do that, we want out there -- and at this point, Mark gives us that best chance.
This should only add to the drama currently surrounding the Jets.
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The issue for the Oakland Raiders in recent seasons has been the lack of quality play from the quarterback position. That caused the Raiders to release Carson Palmer, trade for Matt Flynn and draft Tyler Wilson.
While none of the quarterbacks looked especially good during the start of their most recent three-day minicamp, they did improve on the final day in Oakland. Nate Stuhlbard of CSNBayArea.com said that all the quarterbacks looked crisp.
What will really help whoever ends up starting at quarterback for the Raiders would be a true No. 1 receiver to throw to. Right now, it appears as if that receiver will be Denarius Moore, according to Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times.
If Moore can become a legitimate No. 1 receiver and the Raiders can get solid play from a quarterback, this team could surprise some people this year.
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The Philadelphia Eagles' new offense under head coach Chip Kelly is going to be all about speed. That's why the second-round selection of tight end Zach Ertz was a good one.
Ertz is an elite playmaking tight end with great speed and athleticism for his position. Unfortunately, he wasn't able participate in workouts to due his graduation from Stanford.
He finally made his way to Eagles camp via a cross-country red-eye flight from California to Pennsylvania. He'll need to get up to speed in the offense quickly, but if he can do that, he'll add a dynamic option to what is expected to be an explosive offense.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers have had one of the most consistently good defenses in the NFL over the past decade. They added more firepower to their defense in the NFL draft with outside linebacker Jarvis Jones and safety Shamarko Thomas.
Jones seems like a logical choice to start after being selected with 17th pick in the draft, but veteran linebacker Larry Foote doesn't think that'll be the case, according to Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
No one expected Thomas to start when he was drafted in the fourth round, but that was due to safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark being better options at this point. However, according to a report from Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Thomas has been learning from both Clark and Polamalu. That's good news for a rather raw player, and he might even be ready to contribute early in his career.
While neither Thomas nor Jones is likely to start this year, if they can both at least make an impact, the Steelers should once again field a very good defensive unit in 2013.
San Diego Chargers
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The strongest part of the San Diego roster is the wide receiving corps.
From receivers Vincent Brown, Malcom Floyd, Danario Alexander and Keenan Allen to tight end Antonio Gates, the Chargers have a plethora of receiving targets for quarterback Philip Rivers. However, they might need to make room for one more player after receiver Dan DePalma had an extremely strong showing in OTAs.
He's been showing off his great hands and turning heads so far, according to Ricky Henne of Chargers.com. Head coach Mike McCoy had this to say about DePalma:
The way we rotate practice, we give everyone an opportunity to play. All the receivers have bought in to what we’re doing and they are in the best shape of their lives. We’re going to run them a lot, and (DePalma’s) done a nice job.
With DePalma looking ready to make an impact, the Chargers could have the strongest group of receivers in the entire league.
San Francisco 49ers
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The San Francisco 49ers have two current stories buzzing.
The first is technically a done story concerning defensive tackle Justin Smith. Smith signed a two-year contract extension, according to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. This was a great move for both Smith and San Francisco.
The other story involves tight end Vernon Davis becoming the replacement for injured wide receiver Michael Crabtree. John Breech of CBSSports.com reported that the 49ers have been playing Davis at wide receiver and that he might see some snaps there during the regular season.
Look for Davis to become quarterback Colin Kaepernick's top option while Crabtree recovers from an Achilles injury.
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The Seattle Seahawks boast one of the best young defenses in the entire NFL. They're a physical unit that creates pressure on quarterbacks and gets turnovers when needed.
What's scary for the rest of the NFL is that the Seahawks appear to be adding another playmaker to their defense. Second-year linebacker Korey Toomer has finally recovered from shoulder surgery and is making the most of being back to full strength.
Toomer's athleticism and quickness is what has been standing out to coaches, according to Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com. If Seattle can add another talented and athletic linebacker to its roster, the defense will become even scarier for offenses.
St. Louis Rams
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It's not every day that a long snapper makes noise in the NFL, but that is exactly what is happening with the St. Louis Rams.
It's not overly exciting news, but having a semi-famous trick-shot long snapper could be fun during the season for St. Louis.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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The offseason buzz for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers surrounds their secondary.
First, cornerback Darrelle Revis shelled out some major dough to have his old No. 24 back. According to Darren Rovell of ESPN, Revis paid safety Mark Barron $50,000 for the number he wore for the New York Jets.
Secondly, the Buccaneers continued to add some depth to their secondary by signing cornerback Michael Adams, who previously played for the Arizona Cardinals. While Adams isn't expected to be a starter for Tampa Bay, he should bring some much-needed depth to a unit that struggled last year.
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The 2013 season should be seen as a make-or-break season for Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker. He struggled last year when he was given the starting job and he needs to show some major improvement this year for the Titans to feel confident about their future at the quarterback position.
One thing that has kept Locker back is injuries. Last year, he struggled with a shoulder injury, but according to Terry McCormick of 247Sports.com, Locker's shoulder is at full strength and ready to go.
What else could help Locker take that next step this year is the addition of wide receiver Justin Hunter to his arsenal. Hunter had been sidelined with a hamstring injury for most of OTAs, but he finally hit the field this week, according to John Glennon of The Tennessean.
If Hunter and Locker can start developing some chemistry, they have the potential to turn into quite the dynamic quarterback-receiver duo.
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If it isn't about quarterback Robert Griffin III, then it isn't really news for the Washington Redskins right now. Griffin has overtaken everything regarding this team heading into the 2013 season.
Luckily, there is always news to report about Griffin's knee and how it is healing for the upcoming year. According to a June 10 report from NESN.com, Griffin said he'll be ready for Week 1 "without a doubt."
This is obviously good news for the Redskins, who are a legitimate playoff team with Griffin and a cellar-dweller team without him.